Christina M. Currie: Raising parents

I try to avoid watching the Public Broadcasting Station during its funding drive. It's not that I don't support the station, it's that the redundancy of the message wears thin.

It's like watching the same commercial over and over. And over.

But last weekend, I sat through each and every appeal for sponsorship so I wouldn't miss a word of the featured speaker, Jim Fay, pioneer of the parenting with love and logic concept.

I have one of his books. I can just tell that if I followed through on the techniques he suggests, life would flow so much more smoothly.

So I listened closely as he spoke. He illustrated the concept of replacing anger and discipline with love and logic by using a story of one mother who couldn't get her son to pick up the pace in the morning. His leisurely pace made her late to work so often that she was about to lose her job.

The story was painfully familiar, except that Katie bears the brunt of our lateness. My only consequence is that first shot of stress hits earlier than the first cup of coffee.

Kindergarten is our first morning stop. If we make that one -- or even come close -- Nikki and I have a leisurely 20 minutes before preschool begins.

It all hinges on getting Katie to school on time, and she, well, let's just say mornings don't reflect her best side.

I was eager for advice on handling the situation lovingly.

Now I know.

Katie left the house twice without a coat and once hopping on one foot as she struggled to get her other shoe on.

The premise is giving children the ability to make their own choices.

I say, "We're leaving at 7:45 a.m. You can choose to be ready by then or not."

That's it. It's so simple.

Children feel powerful because they have choices, and parents don't spend their mornings screaming like a banshee.

Of course, their children do.

They don't seem to be as thrilled with their choice when they get dropped off at school in their underwear.

Oh, there's a second step to this plan: Parents must show empathy for children who choose poorly.

"Awww, I know. It really sucks that you have to go to school without breakfast or socks. Maybe next time, you'll make a different choice."

I'm guessing that by this time next week, our lateness will be no one's fault but mine.

Now, I need a solution to the opposite problem: Getting to bed on time.

A few nights ago, I put the girls to bed, waited about 20 minutes and then sank into a hot bath. I had been in long enough that I had to add more hot water, when I heard the pitter patter of little feet.

Responding uncharacteristically fast to my bellow, two little ones appeared in my bathroom wearing matching expressions of perplexity mixed with innocence.

I growled, stressing each word carefully, "GO...TO...BED!"

Their response? A cheerful "OK," as if I didn't tell them the same thing an hour before.

A few minutes later, I got out of the tub and tiptoed through the blackness into their room.

I found, at 11:30 p.m., two little heathen children who were dancing in circles with flashlights. Oh yeah, and they were covered with chocolate.

Evidently, the pitter patter I heard earlier was little feet racing into the kitchen, climbing a stool and dipping their fingers into the chocolate frosting of a newly baked cake.

In the time it took me to take a bath, they'd eaten their way to the cake layer.

It wasn't defiance; it was a sugar high. Of course, the fact they were in that state was pure defiance.

The cake went into the trash, and two girls went to bed crying.

Jim Fay's PBS presentation didn't address handling that situation in a loving and logical way.

Had I contributed at the $95 level, I would have received a copy of the presentation with a bonus "20 unseen minutes."

Now, I think I need the Life Saver Kit, available at the $155 level.

"Awww, I know. It really sucks that you have to pay more now because you didn't pay attention the first time you read the book and you were too lazy to follow through anyway. Maybe next time you'll make a different choice."

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